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30 September 2006

Painting - "San Francisco Afternoon"
"San Francisco Afternoon"
While utterly immersed in painting a still life demonstration for a group of workshop students - and totally enjoying the process - I took a break and asked the class if they had any questions. A student raised his hand and surprised me with the following, "Mr. Sovek, don't you ever get tired or bored painting pictures?"  I stammered out something like "Gosh, I never thought about it."  But the question stuck with me and I began giving some serious thought about just why I've expended nearly a half century of time and energy pushing a brush into a canvas yet continue to get a loopy grin on my face whenever a new painterly challenge comes up. It's certainly not the money. The way I paint is unpredictable. And I continually challenge myself with new ideas, updating approaches and switching mediums every so often so any thought of getting "product recognition" like some of my big-bucks associates is stalled at the starting gate.  So what's the pay off?

I think my initial strong interest turned into passionate love back in those heady days of the 1950s during my first taste of a big time art school and will forever be marked by a single momentous event.  I saw an exhibit of paintings by a senior illustration student. His name was John. And I was bowled over.  Not only was there an unusually high degree of skill, but the work glowed with an expressiveness I had never before encountered. Amazingly playful brush work, fresh color, innovative compositions, it was all there and I was smitten. John was on the G.I. Bill, had some free education coming and chose Art Center College of Design, in Los Angeles, where I had just enrolled as a freshman. He was previously a commercial illustrator, had gone to other art schools and, owing to his advanced abilities, was given an unheard of 3 years credit. I used to tiptoe around the advanced painting classes and saw John in action a few times. He was laid back, had an easy smile and with apparently little effort could capture whatever subject he was asked to depict. He obviously painted to please himself and had no plans of making a living with his brush. The rumor was he planned to move to San Francisco after graduation to work in a book shop and study Eastern Culture. But watching John put paint on a canvas told the true tale. He was like  a kid shooting baskets at a playground.  It was all for the kick of the encounter.

We've all probably come across characters like John.  In my case, during our brief encounter nearly fifty years ago, he illuminated a path to the possibilities of creative expression for me that I continue to follow. And today, as I pick up a brush and check out a subject, I still get that tingly boost of anticipation of a new game about to unfold.

Thanks, John.

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